The scariest moment of his firefighting career:
“Most of the time when firefighters get injured or killed, it’s your basic residential house fire. I had one of those where it was just a normal fire, but it became very confusing when we went in. Fires aren’t like in the movies where you can see what’s going on everywhere. It’s pitch black, and you just couldn’t see anything.
I couldn’t find the fire. I could feel it — it was really hot — but it was almost like a maze in the house. There was a lot of junk in there, and I kept tripping over stuff and falling. They’re pushing the hose in there, and the hose gets all coiled up, and eventually they said, ‘We gotta pull out, we can’t get it from here, we gotta try and go through another door.’ So [the other firefighters] start to leave, and I realize real quick that I can’t find where the door is. I’ve gotten spun around.
The way you’re supposed to find your way out is by following the hose, but the hose was a big coil on the ground so I couldn’t find my way out that way. And it’s getting really hot. It sounded like the walls were creaking; sometimes when that happens the roof falls in. It was very nerve-racking, thinking, ‘I’m gonna die in this room if I can’t find my way out.’ A lot of people die like that and they’re right by door but didn’t know it. Luckily I was able to eventually calm down and relax my breathing. I just tried to be as quiet as I can and listen to see where the sounds were coming from, and where I can hear people talking. I followed that noise and made my way back out.”
“I’ve been asked many times where I got my black belt [in Brazilian jiu-jitsu], but nobody’s ever given me one. I don’t really do jiu-jitsu. I do catch wrestling more, no-gi jiu-jitsu, whatever you want to call it. I don’t even own a gi. Jason Godsey was the guy I was training with at first, but he didn’t have any kind of formal belt system either. Now I have a couple BJJ guys I train with like Marcelo Monteiro, but he’s never officially given me anything like that.”
(Chris Lytle vs. Ikuhisa Minowa, 12/18/99. Fight begins at the 7:24 mark; parts 2 and 3 are below)
Fighting for Pancrase, 1999-2003:
“Jason Godsey was going to Japan all the time, and he had been talking to his manager about me going over there as well. Back then in Japan they had no weight classes. I usually fought at 170 so when [Godsey's manager] saw me fight a guy in Muncie that was 200 pounds and beat him, she was like ‘Okay, yeah, he can fight,’ and she got me a fight pretty quick.
Compared to when I first fought for the UFC, I felt like they treated it more like a legitimate professional sport in Japan than they did here, even at the UFC level. They’d fly you over and pick you up at the airport…it was just treated like a real sport. This was around the time that the UFC was owned by SEG, and it was going through some difficult periods — it was becoming illegal in just about every state and hard to even see on pay per view. They had a lot of cutbacks and I didn’t feel like you were treated nearly as well in America as you were in Japan. It was a very big sport there; they could sell out 20,000-seat stadiums and that wasn’t the case in America.
My fight against Minowa was probably the most memorable from that time. He was a very big name in the Pancrase circuit. He was a fan favorite, he always came to fight, he put on good shows, and I felt like we had a great fight and the fans enjoyed it. They called it a draw, but, you know, I got a lot of draws in Japan. If you walked out with a draw you probably did pretty good. [laughs]”
For more retrospective interviews, click here.